Scott Arniel

Heads have yet to roll in Columbus

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First the answer to the question every Blue Jackets fan has been asking today. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports via Twitter that “nobody has been fired.”

That’s the good news for coach Scott Arniel and general manager Scott Howson. However, given their team’s 0-7-1 start to the season, things could be different soon.

Last night in Ottawa, the Jackets sunk to their lowest point yet, surrendering two goals in the last minute to lose, 4-3, to the Senators.

“It’s tough,” said Columbus captain Rick Nash. “It seems like we’re not getting any bounces. It seems like we’re finding ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win games. That’s the difference between good teams and bad teams right now.”

With all due respect to Nash, the difference between the Blue Jackets and good teams is a lot more than a bad bounce or two. Columbus is 25th in goals scored and 29th in goals against. The power play is terrible (26th) and the penalty killing is even worse (30th).

On the bright side, the Jackets are undefeated with James Wisniewski in the line-up, and he’ll be on the ice Tuesday at home versus the Red Wings, his lengthy suspension to start the season now over.

Sitting out the first eight games wasn’t the way Wisniewski wanted to begin his career in Columbus. The 27-year-old puck-moving defenseman signed a six-year, $33-million deal with the club this summer. And while he isn’t quite up there with the handful of elite blue-liners in the NHL, he didn’t get the big contract for nothing. Wisniewski had 51 points in 75 games last season, tied for fifth among all defensemen.

Forward Jeff Carter was the other big name Columbus added to the payroll during the offseason, coming over in a trade with Philadelphia. Carter is currently on injured reserve with a fracture foot, though he’s not expected to miss a significant amount of time with the injury. The 26-year-old has just three assists in five games, not exactly the production the Jackets were hoping for when they gave up a first- and a third-round pick, plus talented young forward Jakub Voráček.

It should also be noted that forward Kristian Huselius (torn pectoral) is out for at least another month. Huselius is a six-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL.

So, no, the Blue Jackets haven’t been able to put their best feet forward over their first eight games. And yes, there’s still time to turn things around.

But they’d better get going soon.

After hosting Detroit on Tuesday, Columbus heads out on a tough two-game road trip to Buffalo and Chicago.

Former Flyers goalie Heeter signs with Detroit’s AHL team

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The Red Wings added some goalie depth on Monday, agreeing to terms with journeyman Cal Heeter.

Heeter, 27, broke in with the Flyers organization a while back and made his big-league debut in ’13-14, appearing in one game.

Since then, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL (with the Toronto Marlies) and, last season, split his time between Hamburg of the German League and Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL.

By itself, this signing isn’t especially noteworthy, as Heeter projects to be an American League mainstay next year.

But the contract is kind of interesting when looking and the big-picture goalie situation in Detroit. The Wings now have Heeter, Petr Mrazek, Jimmy Howard, Jared Coreau, Eddie Pasquale and Jake Paterson all under contract for next season, which is an awful lot of goalies.

With that in mind, remember that Howard’s name has been in trade talks for quite some time.

 

Ex-NHLers Bellemore, Collins sign with KHL’s Chinese club

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HC Kunlun Red Star, the Beijing-based expansion team that will begin playing in the KHL next season, has added a pair of former NHLers.

Sean Collins, who appeared in a pair of games for the Capitals last season, and Brett Bellemore, a veteran of over 100 contests with the Carolina Hurricanes, have agreed to join the club, per Russian news outlet R-Sport.

Bellemore, 28, was originally drafted by the ‘Canes in 2007 and spent most of his professional career with the organization. He signed on with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence last year, and appeared in 56 games.

Collins, 27, broke in with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Caps last season. He spent the majority of the year in AHL Hershey and fared well — 16 goals and 39 points in 75 games — and scored three times in the playoffs, helping the Bears advance to the Calder Cup final.

 

Report: Journeyman Santorelli signs in Swiss League

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  Mike Santorelli #25 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Veteran forward Mike Santorelli, who’s appeared in over 400 NHL contests over the last eight years, is headed overseas.

Per multiple reports (see here and here), Santorelli has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Ducks, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 70 games but didn’t dress for any of the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Santorelli broke into the NHL with Nashville but enjoyed his best years with Florida and Vancouver. He was a former 20-goal scorer with the Panthers and enjoyed a successful stint with his hometown Canucks in ’13-14, scoring 28 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Santorelli is the second veteran forward to sign in the Swiss League recently. Over the weekend, fellow journeyman Kris Versteeg agreed to join SC Bern.

Jackets sign d-man Harrington, acquired in Rychel trade

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Scott Harrington #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Upon trading Kerby Rychel to Toronto at the draft for Scott Harrington, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Harrington was “a guy we’ve watched for a while,” and a “steady, smart [and] good defender.”

Which makes today’s move none too surprising.

On Monday, Kekalainen announced Harrington signed a one-year, two-way deal (financial terms weren’t disclosed). The contract comes after Harrington split last season between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies, appearing in 15 NHL contests.

While Kekalainen was high on Harrington, the most noteworthy thing about the acquisition is it ended a long-running saga with Rychel, the 19th overall pick in 2013. There were repeated rumblings that Rychel wanted out of town, and felt stifled by Columbus’ reluctance to make him a full-time NHLer.

For a while, Kekalainen stood firm in the face of the reports, once openly wondering where they came from. But in the end, the decision was made to part ways with the 21-year-old, the son of ex-NHLer Warren Rychel.

As for Harrington, he should compete for a spot on the Columbus blueline next season. Right now he projects to be the No. 7 or 8 guy, assuming that super prospect Zach Werenski is primed for a full-time gig in the NHL, firmly entrenched in the Blue Jackets’ top six.

In other news from Columbus today, the club has also agreed to terms with AHL forward Alex Broadhurst.

One of the pieces acquired in last summer’s Brandon Saad blockbuster, Broadhurst was a key contributor to AHL Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship this past spring, finishing second on the club in playoff assists.